PHOENIX -- With seven weeks left in the season, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t care to hear that the Phillies’ schedule is softer than a roll of Charmin.
Now you know why.
Never mind that the Arizona Diamondbacks began the week with the worst record in baseball. Or that their pitching staff owned the highest ERA in the National League. Or that they were on pace for 110 losses. They somehow muted the Phillies’ bats, sending them to a 3-2 loss in the opener of a three-game series here Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to find a way to string hits together, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said after the Phillies slipped to 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves, who won in Miami. “It’s frustrating for the guys. We have to be able to score more than two runs a night.”
The offense went quieter than a tumbleweed in the desert. The Phillies got three hits, one after the third inning. Their first run came on a Bryce Harper homer. Otherwise, the top five batters in the order -- Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, Harper, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew McCutchen -- combined to go 2-for-18 with two walks and five strikeouts.
It was a continuation of a week-long, nearly team-wide funk.
Since an eight-game winning streak in which the Phillies averaged 6.9 runs and 10.1 hits per game, they have scored two runs or less in five of their last seven games. Segura (1-for-20), Realmuto (4-for-26), McCutchen (2-for-22), and Brad Miller (5-for-31) are all struggling.
And although Rhys Hoskins had what Girardi described as “the most positive day we’ve had” in his recovery from a groin injury, it’s unlikely he will come off the injured list until at least Thursday.
“It’s a little bit of it just being baseball,” Miller said. “It just seems like we haven’t had a bunch of balls in the gap or whatever. It seems like some balls are getting ran down, some balls are just coming up short. I feel like when maybe we’re not firing on all cylinders like we were on the eight-game win streak, you’re begging for everything.”
Arizona’s Josh VanMeter broke a tie in the sixth inning with a two-run homer off starter Kyle Gibson that barely cleared the wall in right field. The score remained 3-1 until the ninth inning when Miller doubled and scored on a wild pitch with the Phillies down to their last strike.
With the tying run in scoring position, pinch-hitter Alec Bohm flew out to shallow left field to end the threat and leave the tying run on second base.
It should be a good thing that they face the 39-81 Diamondbacks twice more this week and in six of the next 11 games, but well, Girardi knows better than to count on that.
“I don’t want to hear about the schedule. No more,” Girardi said. “I don’t want to hear it. We played Arizona. We got beat because we didn’t hit. No matter who you play, if you don’t hit and you don’t pitch and you don’t run the bases and you don’t play defense, you’re going to lose in this league.”
Given the lack of support, Gibson had to be nearly perfect. He wasn’t. But he got away with giving up leadoff hits in the first and third innings and creating a two-out, two-on spot in the second.
The Diamondbacks finally got to him in the fifth inning when Daulton Varsho lined a leadoff double and scored the tying run on Josh Rojas’ double. They took the lead in the sixth when Gibson issued a two-out walk to Christian Walker and left a slider over the plate to VanMeter.
“I had an old pitching coach tell me, ‘Every now and then you’ve got to throw a shutout to win,’” said Gibson, who has a 4.70 ERA in four appearances since coming over in the trade-deadline deal with Texas. “Sometimes when the offense is struggling, as a pitching staff, you’ve got to go out there and try to put up nine zeroes and try to take the pressure off them.”
The Phillies thought they recorded the final out of the bottom of the eighth inning when a fan -- in an announced crowd of only 7,796 -- appeared to interfere with McCutchen’s ability to catch a foul pop in left field. But after a replay review conducted while the fan was being ejected from Chase Field, interference wasn’t called.
David Peralta got another chance only to strike out against reliever J.D. Hammer.
A Bryce blast
With two out in the first inning, Arizona starter Taylor Widener walked Harper and went after Gregorius, a sound strategy after falling behind in the count to the Phillies’ hottest hitter in the midst of an MVP push.
But Harper wouldn’t be walked in the third inning.
Faced with the same situation -- two out, nobody on, down in the count -- Widener elevated an inside fastball that was neither high nor inside enough. Harper went up to get it and hit it to the pool deck in right field.
It was Harper’s 22nd homer of the season and his sixth in a span of 52 plate appearances. It was also pretty much the extent of the Phillies’ offense.